Q&A with trans police officer and author Luke Fournier
TW/CW: domestic violence, transphobia, suicidal thoughts
What inspired you to write the book?
I’m someone who never, ever thought that I would write a book. I wasn’t in high-level English classes or had any aspirations to be a writer. It became something that rolled out from the trauma that I endured and it actually turned out to be the most therapeutic thing I could have done.
How has navigating the writing process helped you and what did it look like?
It was extremely difficult to get all the way through it and finish it but in the end I feel like it saved my life. I’m definitely in a much better place now, mentally, having told my story. I can move on in a way that I don’t think I would have if I didn’t do that. No matter what you do when we’re dealing with trauma it’s always a sensitive topic, but I think it’s something important to speak to as well.
How did you get where you were? What were some of the traumas you endured, and what impact did they have on your life?
I always wanted to be a police officer; it was something I’ve always wanted [to do] from a young age. My father was a police officer, so I was around them all the time. It was in my blood. I was also deeply impacted by violence against women, particularly in the story of the Connecticut woman who faced a lot of domestic violence they actually made a TV movie about and I saw it a couple of times as a kid.
I remember getting on the couch and throwing pillows at the TV, screaming at the cops and being so impacted by it while asking myself, “How is this happening?” Her story is what created the new domestic violence laws because of how egregious it was. I had the mentality and the wisdom to know that — unfortunately — some cops suck, and I want to be a good cop. I want to be a cop that understands what women, the LGBTQ+ community and any person of color go through. I want to be there for them, so that was my driving force behind becoming a police officer in the first place. It was a very deep calling.
When I actually did get a job as a police officer at a Massachusetts college, it was a dream come true. Being a very liberal college I felt safe being there, being me. Whether it was being seen as a female police officer that was lesbian or later on as I transitioned, I knew I was in a safe place. I actually felt safe to transition — which was part of why I made the leap — because I didn’t want to lose everything I had built.
I had one sergeant who was a complete headache and was after me, always saying the wrong name, using the wrong pronouns and doing all kinds of things to make my life hell. However, I was moving through it, right up to the point where it was a year after my initial coming out where I got my top surgery. I decided this is the moment I move my stuff into the men’s locker room. That very day I was told by my sergeant that he got a call from my chief, who said, “Get your shit out of the men’s locker room, you’re not allowed in there and you’re not allowed to use the men’s bathrooms.”
I was completely floored. I looked at my sergeant and said, “Are you kidding me? You didn’t know that’s a violation of my civil rights?” He didn’t know what to say. I told him, “I can tell you I’m not going to be here tomorrow because I’m filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Coalition Against Discrimination.” And that’s exactly what I did. I gathered up every bit of evidence that I had, went to the office and filed a complaint, and it was dropped on their desk a week later.
During the whole year it took to settle, I continued to work. The first few months were incredibly difficult. I had panic attacks so bad it was difficult to be there, and I struggled to be OK enough to respond to everybody’s issues since I was drowning in my own. However, being there and still doing what I loved was good because it helped me stay focused and keep my head above water. When it came time to negotiate, I had a lawyer who specializes in this case law and we were confident in taking them to court.
Overall, she encouraged me to settle. I agreed that we’d negotiate, but what I didn’t expect was at that moment they were going to force me to resign. Them saying you’re, you’re no longer a police officer, that was the final blow. While I left that room with a settlement and the victory, I lost everything I worked for my entire life.
I was unemployed for at least a year after. I only made it to second interviews, and it was during their background check that they called my previous job and they probably said some things, and that was it for me. For a whole year I couldn’t get a job and was shunned from all college police departments in Massachusetts. I definitely had gone to a place of wanting to kill myself. So I just spoke honestly with my wife and my family about it, and they were the best support I could possibly have had. Without them, I probably would have done something I’d deeply regret.
At that point, I knew I needed to write it down and get it all out. That’s how it started, almost like a journal. From there it just started to evolve into a book and I thought, “There’s a lot here and I bet other people have gone through similar things.”
I then reached out to the group T-Cops on Facebook and started hearing some of their stories. It was amazing talking to people who could relate and support each other. I needed to see this book through to the end, and getting there was one of the hardest things to work through. I was emotionally in a suicidal state, and came to a place at the end where I knew I’d come out the other side alive.
While the book needs to have every name changed, locations changed and the description of the college different from what it actually was, it’s still what happened. The details are all there and I was able to lay it all out, and that was extremely therapeutic. The book for me has been a lifesaver.
I’m not looking to be this world-renown author; I just hope for the people that see it and read it, it helps them through something they’re struggling with. Trade it for free, I don’t care. It’s not about the money — it’s about sharing my story so it can help other people. I tried to put a lot of information in there that would help other other victims of domestic violence and other resources for the trans community and all the issues and discrimination they face.
Where are you now after all of this transpired?
I bounced around a few different jobs before I found something that fit well. I have two part-time jobs right now, including with the state as a campus police officer in a Massachusetts hospital. So instead of working at a college I’m working in a hospital, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a blessing to have a job where I can be myself and not worry. I haven’t had any issues aside from the environment for police officers right now being volatile, unsafe and deeply saddening.
What do things look like for you in the LGBTQ community as a police officer?
I actually got kicked out of a local LGBTQ group on Facebook. They share where to get free stuff for those who are struggling to get the resources they need. I saw them share very specific information about the college I was working at, and directing people to go jump into the dumpsters to try to retrieve computers that were being thrown out. I piped up and said FYI, jumping into a dumpster is actually trespassing and you could hurt yourself and the campus police would definitely stop you and it’s actually stealing when you remove something from a dumpster that’s not owned by you. I was accused of threatening queer lives and was booted out.
Aside from that, I think it’s important now more than ever to have queer bodies in policing and we can be a valuable resource to the communities we serve rather than being viewed as the enemy.
What’s one thing that you hope a reader gets out of it?
I hope is it’s something people can look at someday and realize it’s not just a book about being transgender and it’s not just a book about being a cop — it’s about the human experience in trying to live as your authentic self and what it means when outside forces are acting against you and pulling you apart.
How do you piece yourself back together again? We all go through struggles. It may not be exactly the same as [mine] but there are many ways we are torn apart in our lives and how we get back to who we are. It’s not just a book for trans bodies or police. It’s a book for anybody that’s ever felt victimized.
What can police departments and communities do to prevent situations like this from happening again?
While police departments are really looking at community outreach and trying to educate the community, the community needs to reach back. It’s almost like the cops are sticking out their hand and trying to educate and communities are just shunning it. There’s a lot of places where they’re falling behind the curve on the inside, both with policies and their own education.
We get tons of education [in the police force], but there’s not a lot of education in the LGBTQ community, what their struggles are and what it means to be a person in those groups. The more they can be educated with people of color, those in the LGBTQ community and other minority groups, the better they’ll be able to serve, and that’s a big part where things are dropping and I’ve actually received a lot of questions on like policies and what HRs can do to help create policies in other departments to support officers.
I’ve done a lot of speeches, I’ve spoken at rallies supporting police in the LGBTQ community and I’ve spoken in social work graduate classes for policy. That’s something that I’m excited that I’m able to do and the book gives me that platform.